By: Astrid Austin

The more than 400km round-trip for cancer patients may be no longer, with radiation treatment set to come closer to home within the next few years.

The Palmerston North-based regional cancer treatment service are replacing their four linear accelerators that are used to deliver radiation therapy and Hawke’s Bay may receive one.

MidCentral District Health Board acting clinical executive for cancer screening, treatment and support Dr Claire Hardie said it was proposed that two accelerators remain in Palmerston North, with one is sent to Hastings and one to New Plymouth.

“This aim of this proposal is for all people to have fair access to the treatment they need,” Hardie said.

“The most significant barrier for radiation oncology services is the distance between a patient’s home and the nearest treatment site.”

Hardie said the distance between Palmerston North and Hawke’s Bay was disruptive to patients’ every-day schedules and an “off-putting” factor.

Some patients had opted for surgery when treatment was possible, or decided not to do go through any form of treatment, because of the round-trip, Hardie said.

Bringing radiation therapy to Hawke’s Bay ensured the “highest clinical standards” could be maintained, Hardie said.

While some patients will still require more specialised care in Palmerston North, it is expected the move will reduce the numbers of people travelling from Hawke’s Bay to Palmerston North by about 80 per cent.

Hawke’s Bay DHB spokesman Dr Colin Hutchison said staff were “very excited” that a new linear accelerator could be installed in the near future.

“This will be great news to patients needing radiation treatment and will prevent them having to travel and stay in Palmerston North.”

Cancer Society New Zealand Hawke’s Bay centre manager Trudy Kirk said it would make an “enormous difference” to those who currently had to leave their families, organise childcare, and arrange often costly transport and accommodation in Palmerston North.

The Cancer Society HB provides a shuttle service for Hawke’s Bay cancer patients and their families to receive treatment in Palmerston North.

The shuttles makes the return trip from Napier/Hastings and Central Hawke’s Bay to the service on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Kirk said public donations went towards covering the cost of this service.

Source: Hawke’s Bay Today

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